NYPD accused of editing Wikipedia pages for Eric Garner death, other scandals
The New York Police Department is reviewing reports that computers connected to the NYPD’s own network edited the Wikipedia pages for some of the more infamous recent events to involve the force, including the choking death of Eric Garner.
Wikipedia articles pertaining to at least three individuals who died as a result of altercations with the NYPD, including Garner, were edited out of the department’s 1 Police Plaza headquarters, Capital New York reported Friday.
According to publicly available records of the online encyclopedia’s revision history, computers connected to Internet Protocol (IP) addresses traced back by the paper to NYPD headquarters edited — and sometimes attempted to delete — entries on alleged instances of police brutality and articles critical of the force’s conduct.
Along with an page on Garner — the Staten Island man who died last July after being placed in a chokehold by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo — Wikipedia articles detailing no fewer than two others deaths involving the Big Apple’s boys in blue were altered by computers connected to the agency’s complex in downtown Manhattan, Kelly Weill reported for Capital New York this week.
NYPD computers edited or attempted to delete Wikipedia pages for Eric Garner, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo. My latest: http://t.co/YDlDl5YpfO
— Kelly Weill (@KELLYWEILL) March 13, 2015
Wikipedia pages for the NYPD’s so-called “stop-and-frisk” tactic, as well as recent scandals that have tarnished the force — such as the 2013 incident in which an undercover cop was caught up in a group beating on the West Side Highway — were edited from headquarters, Capital New York reported, along with the pages for Garner, Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo. Bell died in 2006 after undercover NYPD officers fired 50 times him and two other men, all unarmed, and Diallo was killed in 1999 when a cop mistook his wallet for a gun and opened fire.
Last December, someone connected through the NYPD’s network made multiple edits to the “Death of Eric Garner” page on Wikipedia, Weill reported, within hours of a grand jury’s decision not to charge NYPD Officer Pantaleo in the man’s death. “Garner raised both his arms in the air” was changed to “Garner flailed his arms about as he spoke,” Weill wrote, and “Use of the chokehold has been prohibited” was changed to “Use of the chokehold is legal, but has been prohibited.”
“Instances of the word ‘chokehold’ were replaced twice, once to ‘chokehold or headlock,’ and once to ‘respiratory distress,’” Weill reported, both times from the NYPD network.
With regards to the Bell shooting article, a user connected to the NYPD network initiated an effort to have the entry nixed altogether by filing a complaint on the website’s internal “Articles for deletion” page.
“He [Bell] was in the news for about two months, and now no one except Al Sharpton cares anymore. The police shoot people every day, and times with a lot more than 50 bullets. This incident is more news than notable,” the user wrote.
In 2006, according to Weill, a user of the NYPD network deleted 1,502 characters from the “scandals and corruption” section of Wikipedia’s “New York City Police Department” article. Two years later, another computer connected to the network deleted the entire “Allegations of police misconduct and the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB)” and “Other incidents” sections from the main NYPD page.
@apblake Thanks! Just a short Python script to run all NYPD IP addresses through Wikipedia and flag any with edits.
— Kelly Weill (@KELLYWEILL) March 13, 2015
Weill, an intern with Capital New York, wrote that there are more than 15,000 IP addresses registered to the NYPD, and information about them can easily be found for online for free. A simple computer script programed in Python ran those addresses through Wikipedia, she said, and then flagged instances in which edits were made.
“The matter is under internal review,” NYPD spokeswoman Det. Cheryl Crispin told Capital New York in an email.
According to Friday’s report, IP addresses traced back to NYPD headquarters are also accused of editing Wikipedia pages having seemingly nothing to do with the agency: including those for 90s rock group Chumbawamba, Robert Palmer song “Addicted to Love,” the Boston hardcore music scene, the Kool-Aid Man, Rush bassist Geddy Lee, Ultimate Fighting Championship, Billy Crystal movie My Giant, Louis XVIII of France and the Batman television series.